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Taliban seize districts in northeast Afghanistan from fleeing troops

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Taliban seize districts in northeast Afghanistan from fleeing troops
KABUL: The Taliban march through northern Afghanistan gained momentum overnight with the capture of several districts by fleeing Afghan forces, several hundred of whom fled across the border into Tajikistan, officials said Sunday.
More than 300 Afghan servicemen crossed from the Afghan province of Badakhshan as Taliban fighters advanced towards the border, the Tajikistan State National Security Committee said in a statement. Afghan troops crossed at around 6:30 pm local time on Saturday.
“Guided by the principles of humanism and good neighborliness,” the Tajikistan authorities allowed the retreating Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to cross into Tajikistan, the statement said.
Since mid-April, when US President Joe Biden announced the end of Afghanistan’s “eternal war”, the Taliban have come a long way across the country. But its most important achievements have come in the northern half of the country, a traditional stronghold of America’s allied warlords who helped defeat them in 2001.
The Taliban now control about a third of Afghanistan’s 421 districts and district centers.
Advances in the northeastern province of Badakhshan in recent days have mostly reached the insurgent movement without a fight, said Mohib-ul Rahman, a member of the provincial council. He blamed the Taliban’s successes on poor troop morale, mostly outnumbered and with no resupplies.
“Unfortunately, most of the districts were left to the Taliban without any fight,” Rahman said. In the past three days, 10 districts fell to the Taliban, eight without a fight, he said.
Hundreds of troops from the Afghan army, police and intelligence services surrendered their military outposts and fled to Badakhshan provincial capital Faizabad, Rahman said.
Even as a security meeting was taking place early Sunday to plan to strengthen the perimeter around the capital, some senior provincial officials were leaving Faizabad for the capital Kabul, he said.
In late June, the Afghan government resurrected militias with a reputation for brutal violence to support beleaguered Afghan forces, but Rahman said many of the militias in Badakhshan districts fought half.
The areas under Taliban control in the north are increasingly strategic, stretching along Afghanistan’s border with the Central Asian states. Last month, the religious movement took control of Imam Sahib, a city in Kunduz province, opposite Uzbekistan, and gained control of a key trade route.
The raids into Badakhshan are particularly significant as it is the home province of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was assassinated by a suicide bomber in 2011. His son, Salahuddin Rabbani, is on the current High Council for National Reconciliation. The assassinated former president also led Afghanistan’s Jamiat-e-Islami, which was the party of the famous anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, killed by a suicide bomber two days before the September 11 attacks on the United States.
The Interior Ministry issued a statement on Saturday saying the defeats were temporary, although it was unclear how they would regain control.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the fall of the districts and said most were without a fight. In previous installments, the Taliban have shown video of Afghan soldiers taking money for transportation and returning to their homes.
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